How to Hire A CIO or CTO For Your Portfolio Company


Liberty Advisor Group

Every organization is different. Every business faces unique challenges. Below are some broad thoughts on the best way to approach filling a CIO/CTO position and finding someone who will sync with the business’ vision and goals.


Companies should be cautious not to make the mistake of assuming that all technology leadership roles are the same. A chief information officer, or CIO, is a business-oriented executive who has a technology background. In contrast, a chief technology officer, or CTO, is more focused on architecture, infrastructure, and applications.

Additionally, one shouldn’t just turn to a generic job description. Instead, spend time thinking about the role the technology leader will play in the company and tailor the description appropriately. Typically, technology leaders fall into four categories:

  • The Technologist:This is a true CTO who is providing highly technical services to a business. S/he needs to be familiar with software development and commercial platforms, and has experience delivering major applications.
  • The Program Manager:This individual’s responsibilities focus on managing a major program or set of projects. Typically hailing from a consulting background, the individual is a CIO who understands how business needs and goals translate into technology.
  • The Strategic Executive:This CIO is a technology executive who plays a key role in the growth and the future of the organization. In these situations, the business itself is usually a tech-enabled business. A polished leader, s/he is a visionary who also has the technical depth of knowledge to understand and challenge proposed tech initiatives, spot issues before they become problems, and manage multiple initiatives. The candidate you identify to serve as a strategic executive will have a resume demonstrating regular advancement in past positions.
  • The Steward:Technology doesn’t always play a critical role in the strategic growth of a company (e.g. manufacturing industry). In these instances, the steward is an optimal person to oversee the efforts in the company. The steward has the functional knowledge and acumen to manage technology, but may not carry a CIO or technology title.

Hiring Your Portfolio Company’s New Tech Exec

Once the kind of technology leader that is right for the company has been identified, the next task is identifying and interviewing potential candidates.

In addition to traditional avenues such as job postings and headhunters, leverage the knowledge of technology service providers. They should be tapped into as a network of qualified professionals, including those who are interested in making a job move and are looking for opportunities to advance their career. Also, don’t overlook resources in subsidiaries or recently acquired business units. There may be tech executives who can recommend potential candidates, as well as those who might be personally interested in making a career move.

Unless the company operates in the healthcare, financial services or IT industry, don’t get too hung up on whether potential candidates have industry-specific experience. In most product or service-related industries, a candidate’s technical capabilities, and leadership experience is far more important.

When vetting candidates, leverage the network of resources available across the organization. For example, it can be valuable to have candidates interview with technology executives from individual business units, based on the company’s structure.

CIO and CTO salaries typically start at about $150,000, but can be significantly higher depending on the role, location, and candidate’s experience. Roles with strategic responsibilities typically command higher salaries. Consideration should also be given to incorporating incentives into the compensation package. These might include bonuses if certain initiatives are completed within a specific timeframe; if the individual’s work demonstrably helps the company generate new revenue; or if certain cost takeout goals are met. Equity can also be a valuable and attractive component of a compensation package and quite the differentiator compared to publicly traded employers.


Liberty Advisor Group

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